Northwestern slotted at lucky No. 22

The 22nd spot on the AP preseason poll has been an excellent source of sleeper teams during the past five seasons.

Northwestern was ranked 22nd in the AP Preseason Poll, leading me to search for context. Of course, these rankings shuffle, but how often do teams slated around this area end up finding success?

I was stunned to research the recent history of Preseason No. 22 teams. Think it's worth sharing, despite the small sample size:

2012: Kansas State
Overall Record: (11-2, 8-1 Big 12)
Bowl Result: (Lost to Oregon 35-17 in Fiesta Bowl)

2011: Florida
Overall Record: (7-6, 3-5 SEC)
Bowl Result: (Beat Ohio State 24-17 in Gator Bowl)

2010: Auburn
Overall Record: (14-0, 8-0 SEC)
Bowl Result: (Beat Oregon 22-19 in National Championship)

2009: Iowa
Overall Record: (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
Bowl Result: (Beat Georgia Tech 24-14 in Orange Bowl)

2008: Penn State
Overall Record: (11-2, 7-1 Big Ten)*
Bowl Result: (Lost to USC 38-24 in Rose Bowl)
*Note: All wins were vacated.

Past Five Seasons of #22 Seeds:
54-12 (.818 winning percentage)
Four BCS appearances
Two BCS victories
One national championship

I'm not predicting that NU will reach a BCS bowl this season, but it provided one important reminder. We naturally take far too much stock in preseason rankings, forgetting that some teams just come up with memorable years. Does NU look like the typical BCS team? Not right now, but then again, neither did any of these squads. Don't judge any team by its ranking.

Some of these situations required bursts of good fortune, like Cam Newton breaking onto the scene for Auburn's championship team. Others, like Kansas State, marked simple progression from the year before. (The other Purple Wildcats might be the finest comparison for the 2013 NU team.)

This preseason ranking gives NU solid and well-deserved recognition. With statement wins against an incredibly difficult schedule, the Wildcats would continue the string of recent success from the No. 22 slot in preseason polls. They can make it happen; no need to lower our expectations.

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